Lake Constance poster by Joseph Ruep, published in 1930.
Staatsarchiv des Kantons Bern/ Berner Design Stiftung

The iconic Lake Constance and Rhine poster

The Lake Constance and Rhine poster produced by Orell Füssli in 1897 shows the whole of Lake Constance as far as the Rhine Falls, with the snow-covered Alps in the background. Depicting a south-facing perspective, to this day it has defined the tourist view of Lake Constance.

Elisabeth Schraut

Elisabeth Schraut

Elisabeth Schraut is a historian and works as a freelance writer and curator after working in museums and cultural institutions in Germany, France and Switzerland.

Towards the end of the 19th century, poster advertising appeared, and it caused quite a stir. It was the best way to grab the public’s attention. Tourism publicity started with timetable posters. The Vereinigten Dampfschiffahrtsbetriebe (united steamship companies) on Lake Constance and the Rhine commissioned Orell Füssli to produce one of these posters, a “bird’s eye view of Lake Constance with steamship and seagulls”. The poster combined a view of Lake Constance (click to enlarge) and the Rhine with the timetables for steamships and railways, and appeared a total of eleven times, from 1886 from 1896, to cover the summer season. Its purpose was to attract tourists, or “Fremde” (strangers) in the jargon of the time, to go on a steamboat excursion, as shown in the disc with the steamship Bodan. Until then, the steamships had primarily been a means of transport for people, goods and livestock. Now, in the new era of the railways, which brought people to their destination more quickly, there was competition for the steamboats. With the advent of modern tourism, there was a need to attract new customers.

Tourism advertising would soon become big business in its own right. Around 1900, a number of cross-border associations were set up around Lake Constance and the Rhine which made it their mission to encourage tourism. In 1893, the Verband der Gasthofbesitzer am Bodensee und Rhein (Lake Constance and Rhine hoteliers’ association) was founded in Bregenz, followed in 1902 by the Bodensee-Verkehrsverein (Lake Constance tourist office) in Lindau, and in 1907 the Verein Untersee, Rhein und Umgebung (Untersee, Rhine and environs association). These groups had broadly similar objectives: they aimed to make Lake Constance and the Rhine well known and attractive as a tourist region by improving the transport facilities, but above all through targeted, high-quality advertising, and around 1900 that meant stylish and artistic.

Lake Constance timetables poster dating from 1 June 1887.
SBB Historic

In the year of its founding, 1893, the “Reclame-Comité” of the hoteliers’ association conducted negotiations with the “well-known advertising firm Orell-Füssli in Zurich”, with the aim of producing “a decorative poster for wide distribution”. The first attempt, which envisaged highly detailed depictions of the main attractions around Lake Constance, was unsuccessful due to wrangling over finances. In the second attempt, “a landscape scene of Lake Constance and the Rhine with environs, crowned by the Alps in the background, as drawn by Mr Wegenstein of the Hotel “Schweizerhof” in Neuhausen and worked up by the artistic department of Orell Füssli & Cie in Zurich”, was chosen as the poster motif in December 1895.

Lake Constance and Rhine poster by Orell Füssli from 1909.
Archiv Orell Füssli

The Lake Constance and Rhine poster which finally appeared in early 1897, in a print run of 3000 copies, was out of print after just a few years. In 1909 – slightly modified – it was reprinted. The signature MZ is discernible at bottom left; this could refer to M. Zimmermann, an employee of Orell Füssli’s lithographic department, who signed other posters in this way. However, nothing is known of his biography. And records of Orell Füssli’s correspondence relating to commercial print production are now only available from 1942 onwards.

Soon after its publication in 1897, the new Lake Constance and Rhine poster was distributed not only in the Lake Constance region, but also at international exhibitions – it was sent to London, for example. In smaller form, it was reprinted by Orell Füssli in 1903 and, among other things, enclosed with the “Guide through Europe”, a comprehensive (over 900 pages long) travel guide to Europe which was given as a gift to all passengers on the Hamburg-American Line. As one of only three double-sided colour illustrations in the Guide, the small-format Lake Constance poster was impossible to miss. It was further distributed, among other things, as the title page of the album “Bodensee und Rhein” (Lake Constance and Rhine), published by Edition Photoglob in 1911. The south-facing perspective of the Lake Constance and Rhine poster with the snow-clad Alps has subsequently been taken up by countless artists, illustrators and photographers and reproduced in scores of paintings, in albums, but above all on postcards, and was very widely disseminated. The Lake Constance poster by Joseph Ruep, published in 1930, took up this same perspective again. It was reproduced in very large print runs, as it was also used on the back of Lake Constance brochures. In 1950 it was reprinted yet again.

Title page of the album “Bodensee und Rhein” (Lake Constance and Rhine) by Edition Photoglob, published in 1911.
Stein am Rhein, Jakob und Emma Windler – Stiftung, Kultureinrichtungen

The Lake Constance poster of 1896/97 only existed as publicity material until the First World War. Its depiction of Lake Constance and the Rhine area, with the lake in the centre and the snow-clad Alps behind – that is, looking to the south rather than the north – showcased the scenic virtues of the Lake Constance area, the lake and the mountains, so attractively that it is still the preferred view of the Lake Constance and Rhine tourist region. Even today, a tourist relief map from this angle is used, for example, in the 2019 Pocket Guide to St. Gallen and Lake Constance, and the motif is reproduced on plastic bags and pill boxes. The poster of the Lake Constance and Rhine hoteliers’ association, published by Orell Füssli in 1897, has canonised the view of Lake Constance and defines the tourist vista to this day.

Lake Constance and the Rhine. Tourist publicity across borders 1890 – 1950

Lindwurm Museum, Stein am Rhein

until 31.10.2019

For the first time, the publicity materials – posters, brochures, free travel and accommodation guides, leaflets for foreign visitors to the international Lake Constance region – take centre stage. Many are being exhibited for the first time. In addition to the iconic Lake Constance and Rhine poster, one of the highlights is the previously unpublished Lake Constance and Rhine brochure of 1929-1938/39 with the cover image designed in 1927 by “Bö”, the famous caricaturist and editor of the “Nebelspalter” satirical magazine Carl Böckli. A special publication has been produced to accompany the exhibition: Elisabeth Schraut, Bodensee und Rhein (Lake Constance and the Rhine). Tourist publicity across borders 1890-1950. 52 pages, 98 illustrations. ISBN 978-3-033-06983-1, 12 francs at Lindwurm Museum.

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